What matters most to you? What do you need? What do you wish for? When our Suncoast Hospice patients are asked these quintessential questions, it can lead them to greater peace.
Our spiritual care coordinators are honored to walk along these precious journeys. They help patients to open up, reflect, confront fears and make amends.
During this Pastoral Care Week, spiritual care coordinator Victoria Long discusses her newfound career in spiritual and hospice care in this Q&A. She explains her path to Suncoast Hospice; her team’s interwoven work providing comfort and dignity to patients and families; and her support in connecting patients to the importance in their lives, resolution and meaning.
Q&A with Spiritual Care Coordinator Victoria Long:
1. What’s your background and what led you to Suncoast Hospice?
I’m originally from Kentucky. Being a chaplain is a second career for me. My first career was an RN in I.C.U., O.R. and O.B.G.Y.N. units. When I was a child and within my denomination, women as clergy wasn’t a possibility. As I got older, I went to another denomination.
In 2006, I attended seminary for three years in Boston. I came back and served a congregation in ministry for about three years. Then I decided to take a year off for discernment to see where that might lead. Someone mentioned hospice and put me in touch with Jim Andrews, the spiritual care director at Suncoast Hospice, who I knew from the community.
There seemed to be an intersection of my skill set and Jim suggested I try Suncoast Hospice’s supplemental staffing, which I did in 2014. Then I applied to the CPE (clinical pastoral education) program between Suncoast Hospice and Morton Plant Mease Hospital and it became apparent that hospice was my vocation of calling. I completed the program in August and started in September in my new spiritual care coordinator position for a south county care team, which I previously worked with in supplemental staffing. I had great admiration for the team and what they do. It’s exactly where I want to be. It feels so right.
2. How does your team support patients and families?
With our patient population in the facilities, there are some who don’t have caregivers nearby and it seems so important that hospice provides that support. We have the most dedicated team of caregivers and a holistic approach to patient care.
There’s an integration, from our team assistant who answers phones and shares information – to our social worker and nurse – to our volunteers who sit with patients who don’t have family around. That’s priceless. I appreciate our CNAs. They do whatever it takes to make someone comfortable and restore dignity. Our team helps meet emotional and spiritual needs. We work with patients to be comforted from pain, stay in control and have humanity and dignity. It takes a village. It takes it all.
The experiences of death and dying make families so vulnerable and out-of-step with the world. It can be a very sad and lonely time. With the weight of what families are trying to support and sustain, any help is important. We also can stay in the lives of our families after the deaths of their loved ones. A recent family we cared for said they could have used our services much earlier and I responded, please tell everybody you know. Many families want to immediately volunteer and give back in appreciation of their care. I think that’s the highest compliment.
3. How does your former nursing experience cross over into your spiritual care?
My background as a nurse intersects wonderfully. There’s a comfortableness with the dying process. In our team meetings, I understand the terminology and physiologically what’s going on with our patients. I feel the nurses and physicians appreciate another depth of knowledge.
4. What are your approaches to care and what kind of impact do you wish to make?
I’ve climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. As a chaplain, I’m like a Sherpa traveling alongside your journey. I carry what I can, share what I have, assist you in where you want to go and provide you tools to help you get there. In the end, we’re both better for the journey.
There are people of deep faith, some faith or no faith. For some, the church has done harm. So frequently all of that falls away and they allow me to meet them in such a vulnerable place. People need to be forgiven and to forgive. I can step in to create a relationship, open the dialogue and help them make meaning of where they are. I help them discern what’s important to them, what they need to address and ways to resolve their issues. We do such deep work. It’s good work. It’s a privilege.
Is it time for hospice? We’re here for you. Give us a call or visit us online to learn more about our services.